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FOREWORD There is a considerable mystery as to why historians study some things and ignore others; or why, in our collective memory, we cherish some parts of the past and forget others. Every Texan can give some account of the Battle of the Alamo or the Battle of San Jacinto. Most can recognize the names of Sam Houston and Sam Rayburn. Indeed, Texans more than most Americans have a strong sense of their own past and know quite a lot about it. Why, then, has the long, exciting battle for woman suffrage—which in the end doubled the electorate and changed forever the process of politics, propelled women into public life, and shaped the social history of the twentieth century—been virtually unknown? If one walked down the streets of Austin or San Antonio asking citizens, "Tell me what you know about the Nineteenth Amendment/' the results would be startling. In many cases the answer would be only a blank stare. And if one asked, "Who were Minnie Fisher Cunningham and Jane Y. McCallum?" ninety percent, at a conservative estimate, would have no idea. Yet the history of the suffrage movement exhibits all the characteristics Texans are said to value: boldness, pioneer spirit, great leaders, hard work—and victory at last. Doubters have only to read this splendid book, with its informative opening essay and dramatic documents . The reader who knows what to look for can learn all kinds of things about the way the suffrage movement as a whole developed, about the way Texas women in particular functioned, about growth in political sophistication and effectiveness, about men and women in public opinion. In 1919 both Texas senators and ten of its eighteen congressmen voted for the women's suffrage amendment to the United States Constitution . Texas was one of only three southern states that went on to ratify it. The reasons for Texan support of the amendment are worth serious study, though the answers will emerge only partly from the documents here. What the women themselves did was of enormous significance, but we would also need to know a good deal about the history of gender relationships in Texas, about the prevailing political xiv FOREWORD culture, about the particular senators and congressmen. What we can learn from the documents here is something about the nature of the process by which a suffrage movement in a particular state developed. In Texas as almost everywhere else the movement's beginnings were small and the battle uphill. The fact that a tiny handful of Texas women asked the Constitutional Convention in 1868 to enfranchise their sex suggests that the South, or at least the western part of it, had not been entirely devoid of women's rights sentiments before the Civil War. But male Texans were far from ready to take the critical step. To be sure, a majority report from the committee on state affairs supported the idea; a minority report opposed. Anyone now reading the two reports will be struck by the contrast: the first is well-reasoned and well written and reaches logical conclusions; the second is a mass of rhetorical confusion. Yet grammar or no, the minority view prevailed , 52 votes to 13. The outlook for women was even bleaker in 1875, when only two members of another Texas constitutional convention supported woman suffrage. The supporters might have been forgiven for giving up entirely. Meanwhile, however, an important factor in the woman suffrage situation was developing among the women in the Texas Woman's Christian Temperance Union. That group—made up of exceedingly respectable, pious churchwomen—voted in 1888 to support woman suffrage, the first southern Union to do so. Such women could hardly be perceived as dangerous radicals. Their support for what the national president, Frances Willard, had astutely labelled the "home protection ballot" opened the door through which more daring women could begin to walk.1 In 1893 the first effort to establish a statewide suffrage association in Texas got off to a good start. Talented women spoke all over the state and organized local groups as they went. They urged the political parties to adopt suffrage planks. Texas suffragists who went to Chicago for the great Columbian Exposition were invigorated by conversations with their counterparts from all parts of the country. In spite of this promising beginning, the Texas Equal Rights Association died. Perhaps the depression of 1893 turned suffragists' minds to other matters, but the principal problem, I suspect, was a surfeit of good...


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